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Topdog/Underdog - Acting Edition

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  2,563 ratings  ·  77 reviews

A darkly comic fable of brotherly love and family identity is Suzan-Lori Parks latest riff on the way we are defined by history. The play tells the story of Lincoln and Booth, two brothers whose names were given to them as a joke, foretelling a lifetime of sibling rivalry and resentment. Haunted by the past, the brothers are forced to confront the shattering reality of the

Paperback, 72 pages
Published January 1st 2004 by Dramatists Play Service, Inc. (first published June 1st 2001)
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Alex Cunningham
May 29, 2007 Alex Cunningham rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: underdogs, also topdogs
Pulitzer Prize? Who cares. MacArthur "Genius" grant? No big deal. The literary establishment rightly has buried this play with praise, none of it able to bear weight once you've read or seen this play. The words are electric. The subtext is playfully obvious and rife with tension. The requisite "bucking of literary conventions" turns out to be a miraculous way to depict rhythm on the page. Lori-Parks knocks this one right out of the stadium and into your lap.

ps: Don Cheadle premiered the role of
Francisco Cardona
I saw this play some years ago when the A.C.T. performed it in San Francisco. I remember enjoying the rhythm of the language that carried the play. But recently, I wanted to start searching for literature that was focused on how generations inform one another. Especially after Ferguson, where there arose two types of discourse about what happened. On the one hand, the events were being described as an isolated incident where someone broke the law that led to tragic consequences. On the other han ...more
One of the most over-rated plays I've ever seen or read.
The 2002 Pulitzer winner for drama. This two-person play focuses on two African-American brothers and their struggle with their past (their childhood and their abandonment by both parents) and their present (both are down-on-their-luck). Lincoln is the older brother whose internal conflict weighs security and responsibility against respectability and success and the chance to make money illegally. Booth is the younger brother who dreams big dreams about himself, who wants to live bigger than he ...more
Micealaya Moses
As a playwright I really appreciate this play. The characters are well rounded and incredible to watch. There's a wonderful musical rhythm to Parks' writing that shines in this piece. The set up of two brothers named Booth and Lincoln with Lincoln dressing up part time as Honest Abe at an arcade pretty much tells you how it's going to end but watching them get there is a incredible journey. Booth's desperate desire to be like his brother when he was a hustler and Lincoln's desire to avoid becomi ...more
I recommend everything written by Suzan-Lori Parks and Topdog/Underdog is no exception. Parks is a very down-to-earth sister. Her love of American history is so pervasive throughout her work. I'm a really big fan of hers. Topdog/Underdog has been one of the most fascinating literary works, I've read this year. This play is only a about 120 pages and can easily be read in one day, but it's the themes and ideas at work in the play that keep you thinking for about a week. It's worth it, though.
love this play,great story, and amazing to see it live again and again, a story that is illuminated even brighter by interpretation of director and actors in each production, it's like a story that's never the same whenever you see it!
Sidik Fofana
(SIX WORD REVIEW): The Ghetto Cain and Abel...meh.
This year I put a little more focus on teaching dramatic literature, stuff that comes in script form. It's a lot easier for students to immerse themselves in a world where actions and words are all that matter (and descriptions and imagery are minimal).

First came Susan Lori-Parks' Top Dog/Underdog, a rather daring piece of theatre from 2001. I first read it when my brother Matt showed me just how powerful modern plays could be in comparison with the classics. How honest and raw was this relation
Katy Rosenthal
I read this play in probably a little under three hours, and my initial reaction to it was extremely negative. In retrospect, however, I've found that I was simply shocked by the ending (when I shouldn't have been) which threw off my ability to see the work for what it was. I now think about this play often. The relationship between the two brothers (the only characters in the play) serve as a simulacrum for so many issues present in every society, but especially the African American experience.
I have no idea why I put this book on my reading list in 2010, I forgot all about it until I was looking through my 'to-read' Goodreads section and saw this title. I had to read the book for my African American Literary Drama class during the spring 2013 semester. I am so so glad I had the opportunity to read this book. My only regret is that I did not see it live with Don Cheadle and Jeffrey Wright or Mos Def and Jeffery Wright.

The rhythmic nature of the story and the dialogue, the large shado
Rui Carlos da Cunha
Learning about the Three-Card Monte routine from a play is brilliant.

Now I have a slight understanding into what might take place in cities where tourists are plenty and some are gullible enough to fall for a street hustler like Link/Lincoln. That the end of the play is tragic is hardly news when Booth/3-Card always has a gun on him.

Perhaps I have a more vivid imagination than others for envisioning this play on the stage just by reading the text. I wish others could have enjoyed the writing st
My Amazon review: Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize winning play, Topdog Underdog, shows the strength of Parks' ability to write convincing dialogue, to develop memorable characters and in the process to create something of a meaningful nature. Certainly this two-man play contains black male stereotypes that are uncomfortable to deal with, however this seems to be the point. While the reader hopes that Lincoln and Booth are caricatures, or at the very least are only representative of an extinct p ...more
Joshua Novalis
Topdog/Underdog is an intriguing post-modernish play documenting the strained, yet loving relationship between two card-hustling brothers, aptly named Lincoln and Booth. Suzan-Lori Parks definitely shows her ability to shoot energy to her audience through the electric dialogue between Lincoln and Booth, making the play feel truly alive. Lincoln and Booth are both strongly realized characters, displaying strengths, weaknesses, desires, passions, and struggles. I truly enjoyed their conversations ...more
Generally I've been surprisingly impressed with the Pulitzer Prize winning dramas. Often I find major award winning writing to be over-hype crap. The Pulizter's for drama that I have read have been pleasant gems. Until now.

This 2002 award winner, is the story of two African-American brothers (Lincoln and Booth), sorting out their lives. They hustle, steal, con, and try to work legitimate-but-low-paying jobs. Their past is nearly as amorphous as their future.

One of the ways in which I rate plays
I have also read Suzan-Lori Parks' novel Getting Mother's Body, and her play Venus and I am continuously impressed with her. I love the way she writes language the way it would be spoken: sometimes difficult to understand, not always with proper grammar, and different for each person.

Topdog/Underdog tells the story of two brothers: Lincoln, the topdog, and Booth (aka 3-card), the underdog, who are obsessed with the street con game three-card monte. Lincoln describes why they were given their nam
Gabrielle Carolina

Mad props to Parks who wrote something so vivid that I cannot really say I enjoyed the experience.

To be clear this play was not a reading of leisure for me, it was assigned, and therefor the luxury of reading within one's own aesthetic did not apply. This play relies on stereotypes, misogyny and a heck of alotta profanity to get the point across. I don't think Parks meant to condone any of the above, it was just a whole lot in one short play for me to tolerate.
The title illustrates how simple and complex this play feels when reading it. Meaning is layered masterfully. Poignant and full of struggle between class, race, and family. Maybe that's just life. Filled with empathy and subtle characterization that seems to fit the performance that might comment on such deep questions.
I am a casual reader of drama and a casual theater-goer; so take my opinion here for what it is worth. I picked up Topdog/Underdog because it had won a Pulitzer Prize. I was very disappointed. 109 pages of largely inane dialog that ends with tragedy -- tragedy that I as a reader did not feel a bit. There is a certain cleverness here: characaters named Booth and Lincoln; Lincoln works as Abe Lincoln at an arcade where he is shot throughout the day. This play obviously did something for other read ...more
I'd love to see this play, mostly because it's just two actors on a simple set with a lot of slang in the dialogue. It definitely leaves a lot of room for direction and chemistry between actors. That said, it was a quick read. I appreciate that it's a dialogue-driven play where little happens onstage but most of the development is in the audience's view of the characters. I also like how 3-card monte became more of a character in itself, causing Booth and Link to share more about themselves. We ...more
Wow. This play was something. Reading it with no sound gave it a chilling factor and made my stomach just churn. It's two brothers victims of their unfortunate pasts and concluding with an unavoidable tragedy. I'm planning to see this play performed on stage. I'm really curious to see how it will be portrayed. Anyway, I recommend this.
I have not read a play in a long time; reading this reminds me how much I enjoy them. I'm hoping to see the author in Buffalo soon. This text is full of tension. I think-- to be honest-- it might be easier to read than to watch.
Josh Hornbeck
Suzan-Lori Parks' play "Topdog/Underdog" is an exquisitely crafted examination of family bonds, the burden of societal expectation, and the pressure history exerts on the present.
...and many more stars. I gripped each line and word in this play like I would a person. This play kept me at the edge of my seat the entire way.
I read this book because my mother and I are die hard Mos Def fans (he's so reserved, cute and complex!) but without my undying love, this play could stand on its own. This riveting, and ultimately ironic play holds the reader 'til the very last page. While the finale is the climax of the play, it leaves you questioning the actual end. Where do sibling rivalries end? Are they fated to happen? This really hit home for me considering my brother and I are viciously competitive… But despite their co ...more
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Ashley Lane
Wow. And yikes. I found it a tab bit much, but extremely moving.
Apr 05, 2010 Darius rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Darius by: Lindsey Stoddard
This play has a cool allegorical or even mythological feel that appeals to me, without ever straying from the real and immediate relationship these two brothers have. There's a great balance in the text between thoroughly writing these characters and freedom for a production to perform these rolls very differently. The makings of pretty juicy moments in pretty innocuous-looking lines. It's interesting being uncertain of how the characters feel during most of the text, though, and liking that. Wo ...more
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Suzan-Lori Parks is an award-winning American playwright and screenwriter. She was a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant in 2001, and received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2002. She is married to blues musician Paul Oscher.

More about Suzan-Lori Parks...
Getting Mother's Body Venus - Acting Edition The America Play and Other Works The Red Letter Plays In the Blood - Acting Edition

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